Skip to content

Virginia AG Says He Wore Blackface as a Tribute to Rappers Like Kurtis Blow

VA Attorney General Mark Herring Namechecks Kurtis Blow in Blackface Statement

On Wednesday, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring released a statement admitting to wearing blackface at a college party in 1980. According to the statement, Herring claimed that when he was a 19-year-old college student, his friends “suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song.”

Herring added, “It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes – and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others – we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup.”

Blow, one of the architects of hip-hop, was the first rapper to be signed to a major label and the first to receive a gold record for his landmark single “The Breaks.”

Although Herring says he takes responsibility for his actions, he also stated his “conduct is in no way reflective of the man I have become in the nearly 40 years since.” You can read his entire statement below:

Herring is the second Virginia public official to admit to donning blackface this month. On Saturday, Governor Ralph Northam held a disastrous press conference to address a horrifically racist photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook featuring a man in blackface sitting with a person in full Ku Klux Klan regalia. At the presser, Northam denied being either of the men in the photo, but did admit to putting shoe polish on his face and moonwalking in order to impersonate Michael Jackson in a dance contest that same year. When asked by a reporter if he could still moonwalk, Northam’s wife Pam stopped him from embarrassing himself further.

Herring was among the Virginia public officials who called for Northam’s resignation. He is third in line for the governor’s office and is planning to run for governor in 2021.

Spin reached out to Blow’s reps, who did not immediately reply to the request for comment.

UPDATE (2/8 10:40 a.m. EST): Blow responded to Herring’s statement in an interview with the New York Daily News published Thursday evening.

“It was shocking to me,” the 59-year-old said. “It’s just shocking that we still have blackface representing what this country or this society is really all about.”

The rapper, who is also now an ordained minister, called out the Virginia AG’s hypocrisy in calling for Ralph Northam’s resignation when he had a blackface incident in his past as well.

“I would love to talk to him and pray for him,” Blow said. “I just would love to ask, ‘What were you thinking?’ How could he call for the resignation, knowing he had the same situation in his own past? He had the same skeleton in his own closet.”

You can read the entire interview here.